The state is not quite there yet in offering the COVID-19 vaccination to Missouri’s K-12 school workers. It is working on a plan to get them vaccinated when it is their turn. During a state Board of Education meeting this week, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Spokeswoman Mallory McGowin said supply continues to be an obstacle.
“The number of vaccines we have gotten into the state has not been what we were hoping at this point,” she said. “And so, that is affecting the timeline obviously for our K-12 audience.”
Member Mary Schrag of southern Missouri’s West Plains said the medical community in rural Missouri is also lacking vaccine.
So far, the immunizations have been offered to Missouri’s health care workers as well as long-term care staff and patients. On Thursday, the state began offering them to first responders and remaining health care workers. Beginning Monday, individuals 65 and older and those with an increased risk of severe illness can get vaccinated.
K-12 school employees are next in line. Some board members, including President Charlie Shields, said the education community should be higher on the priority list.
“The faster we get the education community immunized, the faster we get back to in-person learning, which we have said as a board is a huge priority,” said Shields. “The more kids we have in school, the more parents we have able to re-enter the workforce, the faster the economy recovers.”
School nurses could help to vaccinate fellow employees. Some workers might end up going to a nearby Walgreens or CVS Pharmacy. Shields said hospitals “stand ready to help.”
“What we would do is set up in a large space be it a gymnasium or a cafeteria, have several people doing the immunizations, doing the registration, things like that. Then we need to be able to watch people for 15 minutes to make sure they don’t have a reaction,” he said. “So, it takes a lot of manpower to do these. But when you set them up right, you can do hundreds if not thousands a day. So, you can imagine it wouldn’t take very long to do an entire school district.”
Shields, of northwest Missouri’s St. Joseph, is the CEO of Truman Medical Center in Kansas City and serves on the Missouri Hospital Association Board.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine tracker shows more than 528,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine had been delivered to Missouri’s hospitals, health care providers, local health departments, or pharmacies. Gov. Mike Parson says Missouri has administered at least 190,000 doses of the immunization.
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